FTC Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book

Is the Positive News about Identity Theft for Real?

By Robert E. Holtfreter

bob-holtfreter-50x50.jpg   Taking Back the ID 

Here’s a case that hits close to home. My wife, an elementary school teacher, recently called me on her lunch break to tell me she had just received a questionable e-mail from Laura, the mother of one of her students. The message said that Laura was in the United Kingdom, had lost her wallet, and was asking my wife to wire $2,500 to an account in the UK. I told my wife that the message obviously was fraudulent, and she should call Laura.

My wife was just one of more than 40 people who had contacted Laura (who wasn’t stranded in the UK) to tell her they had received the same fake e-mail from her. Laura told my wife that during the previous month she’d innocently provided her personal e-mail account information (username, password, etc.) to someone masquerading as a Yahoo! employee. After she typed in her personal info, she hit the reply button and the fraudster had what he needed to infiltrate her computer, hijack her e-mail contact list, and send the “I need money” e-mail to more than 200 people. Fortunately, no one wired funds to the UK account. Not this time.

This scam is representative of the many that have been reported to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and reflected in its 2009 Consumer Sentinel Network (CSN) Data Book, which was begun in 1997.

The CSN reports annual unverified complaints filed directly by consumers to the FTC and other agencies including the Better Business Bureau, Department of Defense, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Identity Theft Assistance Center, Internet Crime Complaint Center, National Association of Attorneys General, National Consumers League, PhoneBusters, U.S. Postal Service, state and local government, and police and sheriff departments.

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